Moscow, May 12 (UNI) A manufacturing plant in south-west China has started producing Russian-designed Mi-171 transport helicopters, one of Russia's key arms exports, Russian business daily Vedomosti reported today.
''We consider this project as the begining of a trend to assembly Russian helicopters in China,'' the newspaper quoted a source in Oboronprom, which controls Russian Helicopters, a helicopter manufacturing group.
China plans to build at least 20 helicopters in 2008 with assembly kits supplied by a Russian plant in Ulan-Ude and later increase production capacity to 80 helicopters per year.
Mi-171 is an export version of the Mi-8 Hip helicopter, which is currently in production at two factories in Kazan and Ulan-Ude, fitted with more powerful turboshaft engines.
The Lantian Helicopter Company, based in Sichuan province, has already received orders worth 42.8 million dollars, Vedomosti said.
''The Chinese are planning to export Mi-171 helicopters to Pakistan and Africa, which may hurt Russian exports,'' the source said.
''In addition, the successful implementation of the project could leave Russian manufacturers short of component parts,'' it added. In 2007, Russian companies built 120 Mi-171 helicopters, although they had orders for 150 helicopters, due to a shortage of transmissions and rotors, and according to estimates, there are no plans in the future to increase production for these components.
However, some Russian experts believe it is better to allow the Chinese to manufacture helicopters under licence rather than sit and wait until China develops its own version, modelled on Russian designs, Vedomosti said.
UNI XC ARB CS1652